Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) leads to obstructed airflow from the lungs. People with COPD are at higher risk of developing lung cancer, heart disease, and other such conditions.
Chronic bronchitis and emphysema are two common conditions that lead to COPD. While the former causes daily cough and mucus (sputum) production, the latter leads to impaired airflow from the lungs. Both these conditions generally occur together and can differ in severity among those with COPD.
In developed countries, tobacco smoking is the primary cause of COPD. In developing countries, COPD is common among people exposed to fumes from burning fuel for cooking and heating in poorly ventilated homes. Only a few chronic smokers develop clinically apparent COPD.
Some other factors that play a role are genetic susceptibility to the condition, workplace exposure to smoke, dust or fumes, and irritants like air pollution, secondhand smoke, cigar smoke, and pipe smoke.
Typically, COPD symptoms appear after there has been significant lung damage. These include:
- chest tightness
- shortness of breath, especially during physical activities
- lack of energy
- swelling in legs, ankles, or feet
- frequent respiratory infections
- weight loss (in later stages)
- a chronic cough that may produce clear, white, yellow, or greenish sputum
COPD can lead to various complications, including:
- high blood pressure in lung arteries
- heart problems (increased risk of conditions like a heart attack)
- lung cancer
- respiratory infections (more chances of catching the flu, colds, and pneumonia, which can cause further damage to lung tissue)
The progression of COPD can be slowed down. One of the ways is avoiding smoking, or if you smoke, quit now. For long-time smokers, these words may not seem so simple. However, you must find a tobacco cessation program to help you quit smoking.
If you’re exposed to fumes at your workplace, consider speaking to your supervisor about it. Using respiratory protective equipment can be one way to prevent COPD. Additionally, considering the respiratory illness that the recently-emerged novel coronavirus causes, it’s essential that people with COPD be more cautious.